Australian cricket July 3, 2009

Hilditch defends persistance with Symonds

Andrew Hilditch, Australia's chairman of selectors, has defended his panel's persistence with Andrew Symonds and its forgiveness of his frequent indiscretions. Despite Symonds' worsening behaviour over the past year, Hilditch wanted the allrounder back in the national set-up as soon as his bans ended following the India and South Africa tours.

Both times the selectors' judgment was poor, with Symonds unable to follow his own contract guidelines or perform on the field. His international career ended last month when he was sent home from the World Twenty20 for drinking in public.

"I think it was the right thing to do," Hilditch said of continuing to pick Symonds. "The reality is he is a very important player in the role he was playing, No. 6.

"The reality is we will miss Andrew Symonds, an explosive player. We missed him in Twenty20 quite clearly and we're going to miss the ability that he had to change games. But that's gone at the moment."

The continued selection of Brett Lee as he battled through the India series last year and the following home campaign was another of Hilditch's strange decisions. Lee's marriage ended shortly before the India tour and Hilditch indicated the panel would have left him home if they had their time again. However, he felt he was right to keep faith in Lee until he hobbled out of the MCG Test to have foot and ankle surgery.

"The situation with Brett was extremely difficult and with hindsight a lot of people would have handled that differently," he said. "You are dealing with a 300-Test-wicket bowler and a person who came to India, for a lot of reasons unrelated to cricket, under-prepared and paid the price."

When Lee, who also picked up giardia in India, captured nine wickets in the New Zealand Test in Adelaide, Hilditch felt the fast bowler was back on track. "He got his best-ever Test figures leading into the South Africa series, so it would have been a pretty tough call to say in those circumstances that you're not going to pick a 300-wicket player who has just come off his best performance."

In 2008-09 Australia's progress also stalled due to Matthew Hayden's poor form - they lost against India and South Africa with the opener out of form - and he was allowed to retire after the SCG Test, a gesture which appeared like he received a farewell game. "I can see people will perceive it that way, but I will never be part of giving anyone a testimonial Test match," Hilditch said. "We pick what we think will be our best side for each game.

"My assessment [of Hayden] was probably accurate, he wasn't actually gone, he was capable of playing some good cricket. Most of the greats tend to struggle more mentally, it's a pretty tough gig over a long period of time."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo